For Timbers, the time is now for Nagbe

Portland's offense gets a lift when Darlington's on the field
March 17, 2012 / By Mike Donovan,

Going into halftime Saturday in Frisco, Texas, the Portland Timbers were behind 1-0 on the scoreboard and Darlington Nagbe was not on the pitch for the second consecutive first half.

Five minutes into the second half, Nagbe was in and the Timbers were no longer losing.

A Nagbe goal four minutes into the second half earned the Timbers a 1-1 draw in their first away match of the season.  Unlike the Timbers home opener on Monday at Jeld-Wen, Nagbe entered the game as a striker and not a midfielder.

While his goal was only set up after a disastrous screw-up by FC Dallas midfielder Daniel Hernandez, his finishing ability and presence of mind to turn and fire on net had zero to do with an opponent’s mistakes.

According to head coach John Spencer last season following the New England home game, Nagbe prefers to play up top paired with another striker. With newly acquired striker Kris Boyd a ready-and-willing presence in the box, Nagbe might have found his perfect match.

It was not just the goal that earned Nagbe the right to start at striker for the Timbers in upcoming matches. It was his touch and passing ability. His first touch is clearly far above any other potential starting forward on the club, while his ability to pass in tight spaces is a notch above Jorge Perlaza.

Nagbe’s ascent to striker would also clear up Perlaza to be used as a speedy, change-of-pace forward in the final 20 or so minutes of a match. Perlaza would have a game changing ability going against defenders that had been on the pitch for the entire game.

Another plus of Nagbe starting as a striker is how it clears up the jumbled outside midfielder position. Assuming Franck Songo’o eventually starts, the Timbers will have two defined starters (Kalif Alhassan and Songo’o) and two defined backups (Sal Zizzo and Eric Alexander) on the wings.  

While Nagbe does not have the height of most starting MLS forwards, his excellent jumping ability and sheer soccer IQ make up for his lack of inches. Nagbe displayed his ability to beat much taller defenders in last year’s 1-1 draw with the San Jose Earthwaukes at Jeld-Wen.

Using his brain and leverage, the 21-year-old beat 6-foot-5 defender Bobby Burling to a ball and then slotted in a cross to Cooper, who found the back of the net. Plays like that demonstrate Nagbe’s ability to play against much taller central defenders.  

Sometimes in sports, players lose their spot not due to their inability, but simply because another player gives his team a better chance to win. And that is exactly what is happening to Jorge Perlaza. His demotion paired with Nagbe’s promotion would simply make the Timbers better.

Mike Donovan is the Portland Timbers beat reporter for and he tweets at Donovan, along with published Cliff Pfenning, host the weekly web series, No Pity City, every Tuesday night at 8: 30 Pacific time.

Timbers respond again, score in Dallas

Nagbe's goal give Portland a 1-all tie and point on the road
March 17, 2012

Portland took another step toward its goal of reaching the MLS Playoffs by rallying for 1-all tie at FC Dallas Saturday.

Darlington Nagbe scored in the 51st minute after a bad pass by the Dallas defense to knot the score after the Timbers had given up a goal in the first half.

Nagbe's goal brought Portland back from a goal down for the second straight week. The Timbers trailed Philadelphia in their opener before scoring 3 goals in the second half for a 3-1 win.

The Timbers and Dallas both left the field at 1-0-1, 4 points.

Portland plays at New England, which lost 3-0 to Sporting KC earlier in the day, on Saturday.

Dallas carried the action to the Timbers until finally scoring in the 22nd minute, when a cross from Carlos Rodriguez found Bryan Levya on the right side of the Timbers box. Leyva, making the first appearance of his MLS career, put in a hard shot on Timbers 'keeper Troy Perkins that was brushed away only to find a wide-open Blas Perez waiting to put in the rebound for his first career score.

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Portland picked up its play directly after the goal and had a free kick by captain Jack Jewsbury in the 36th minute hit the post off a header from Lovel Palmer.

Kris Boyd had a hard, point black shot hit the post as well.

Dallas led the game stats in corner kicks with seven, while Portland managed just three, all in the final 20 minutes.

The game featured only one offsides call.


You've got to love a team that attacks and celebrates

COLUMN: Timbers show great potential for televised entertainment in win
March 12, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning,

Wow, did the Portland Timbers completely dominate the Philadelphia Union in their season opener Monday at Jeld-Wen Field.

After conceding an early second-half goal, they sent ball after ball up the left and right flanks and created scoring opportunity after opportunity, which turned into a goal midway through the half. And, then another goal. And then another, each of the three being sent home by a different player. With all the chances the team was creating, you could sense the urgency of other team members to get in on the feeding frenzy.

"I want mine, too, dammit!"

Especially as the goals were all scored in front of the rabid Timbers Army.

What might make the goals fabulous for the non-rabid fans is how they were scored - through those constant attacks, something Philadelphia just couldn't counter. The Union had a steady ball-control mentality, which regularly directed the ball backward, away from where it needed to go to score. This regularly happens with matches televised by ESPN or another sports channel.

Ball control might be sound soccer, but it's not so enjoyable to watch. The Timbers just shellacked the steady ball-control offense with its lightning quick outside midfielders, and, of course, Scottish newbie Kris Boyd. 

What a game to be at, even in the constant rain. The people with the best seats all got absolutely soaked.

Boyd, in just two games - one a preseason affair, has put an offensive jolt into the Timbers, one that has to have the rest of the league taking notice. He scored tons of goals in Scotland, but Scotland isn't a truly memorable country on the European club stage. Every goal he scores is going to lift the prestige of Scottish soccer.

And, he's great at celebrating. All the Timbers are. Monday's game was a fabulous event for photographers, myself included, as the goals were celebrated wildly in front of the Timbers Army. "Wildly" means emotion, which is great for photos.

The team seems ready to provide plenty of good emotion shots this season.

Soccer City pounds brothers from Philly, 3-1

Boyd scores on a night of firsts for the Timbers in MLS regular season opener
March 12, 2012 / By Mike Donovan,

In the opening match of their second MLS campaign, the Portland Timbers used a series of firsts to defeat the Philadelphia Union, 3-1, on a soaking wet night at Jeld-Wen Field. 

Kris Boyd and Andrew Jean-Baptiste scored on their MLS debuts, while Kalif Alhassan scored in his first MLS goal and first regular season goal ever in Portland to lead the way for the Timbers. The club also won after conceding the first goal, something it was unable to do in 17 chances in 2011.

After a scoreless and sometimes slow-paced first half, the Union were the ones to get on the score sheet first when a Gabriel Gomez free kick found the back of the net after a deflection by Jean-Baptiste. While officially a Gomez goal, even Jean-Baptiste admitted after the match he was the one who put it in.

“We all make mistakes. Every defender who has played has scored an own goal,” Jean-Baptiste said after the match. “After that, I tried to get the team back in the game.”

And Jean-Baptiste did just that by putting in a Jack Jewsbury free kick with a little help from a floundering Zac MacMath. Jean-Baptiste, who was drafted 10th overall by the Timbers in this season’s MLS draft, was only making the start after Hanyer Mosquera was unable to secure his International Transfer Certificate before the match.

After Jean-Baptiste goal, it was all Timbers. Boyd found the net 12 minutes after Jean-Baptiste’s goal, when Alhassan served up a beautiful cross to the Scotsman. All MacMath could do was watch as Boyd’s header went across his body and into the net.

Boyd’s goal gave the Timbers a quick return on their multi-million dollar investment. Coach John Spencer said postmatch that he hoped Boyd will be able to “build a house with his log slices” and Boyd will become a legend in Portland.

Alhassan’s first ever MLS goal sealed the win for Portland, as his cross found the inside of the net as a helpless MacMath could do nothing to stop the ball from going in. Alhassan had a second half to remember with a goal, an assist, and with multiple plays where he dribbled through the union defense.

While the Timbers played exceptional in the second 45, the first half saw few chances for either team. The best chance was an Eric Alexander chip that was deflected just wide by MacMath.

Portland started the match with numerous potential starters out due to injury or contract issues with Franck Songo’o, Futty Danso, Sal Zizzo, and Hanyer Mosquera all left out of the 18-man gameday roster.

My men of the match were Jean-Baptiste, who looked strong at the back despite his one mistake and Boyd, who showed Monday why he was brought to Portland.

Portland was 0-13-4 after conceding the first goal in a game last season. Jack Jewsbury’s two assists tie him for the league lead with Blas Perez of Dallas and Colorado’s Kosuke Kimura. Western Conference teams were 5-1 versus Eastern Conference teams during the first week of MLS play

The Timbers take on FC Dallas Saturday at Pizza Hut Park at 5:30 Pacific time. 

For coverage of every game, check out and

Don’t forget that OregonSports will be broadcasting its new web series, No Pity City, every Tuesday night at 8:30 P.M. live from the Bulldog Tavern.

Portland plans to rain on Union

Timbers Army readies for harsh weather as MLS Opener hits Soccer City USA
March 12, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning,

A year after opening their Major League Soccer home schedule in a constistend downpour, the Portland Timbers and their loyal fanbase might get another challenge from Mother Nature.

Wind and rain are expected tonight at the Timbers play host to the Philadelphia Union at Jeld-Wen Field.

The game, set for a 6:30 p.m. start, will be televised by ESPN2.

Portland played its expansion home opener on April 11 last year, beating Chicago 4-2 in a game that began with the Timbers Army singing the National Anthem. The Timbers Army is expected to sing the anthem again tonight.

Portland's roster has been bolstered by a number of off-season signings, led by the Scottish Premier League's all-time leading scorer, Kris Boyd, in February. Boyd scored just seven minutes into his first preseason game last week,

Portland had been viewed as an underdog to reach the 10-team league playoffs, but moved up considerably according to Sports Illustrated columnist Grant Wahl following preseason results. Wahl had Portland picked for sixth just two weeks ago, but moved the Timbers to fourth in the Western Conference on Friday.

Philadelphia, Wahl write, is picked for eighth in the Eastern Conference.



Countdown to opener begins with rain

Timbers players get into groove for Monday's game with Philly
March 10, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning,

With the Major League Soccer season set to begin in Portland on Monday, the weather at Jeld-Wen Field shifted to remind those involved with the team about the team's opener last season.

"Yes, I remember that pretty good," Timbers midfielder Jack Jewsbury said following a light workout. "You don't get to play in weather like that too often."

Portland beat Chicago 4-2 in a constant rain on April 14, a game that started the team toward a playoff run that came up just short in the final two weeks. Along the way, the Timbers fanned the flames of the community's passion for the game and will face Philadelphia Monday at 6:30 p.m. with the goal of playing into the playoffs and beyond.

Several international additions, most notably Kris Boyd from Scotland, have bolstered the roster as the team's second season readies to start.


It's your Timbers guide to 2012

How will each Portland player stack up?
March 8, 2012 / By Mike Donovan,

With the Major League Soccer season opener just four days away,’s Mike Donovan decides to preview every player on this year’s Timbers squad.

But, instead of going on and on about a player strengths and weaknesses, he has decided to use just 17 syllables for each Timber.

That’s right, a guide to the 2012 Portland Timbers using only haikus.

Bikes, food carts, microbrews and haikus. Soccer coverage styled for Soccer City, USA.

And now, the 2012 Timbers:

Eric Alexander
Capped in ‘11
Looks to crack starting lineup
Will play left or right?

Kalif Alhassan
No goals last season
What a pure talent he is
Now tries on defense!

Joe Bendik
Stuck behind Troy, Jake
Decade younger than Adin
See him in Reserves

Kris Boyd
Highest paid player
Scores goals, lots and lots of goals
Lots of name puns, too!

Freddie Braun
Quite a smart player
Former U-23 stud
Now just a reserve

Eric Brunner
A tough defender
Became a leader last year
Wins fights in the air

Mike Chabala

An instant legend
Shocked LA with his right foot
Good enough on D?

Diego Chara
Constant Energy
Led league in fouls last season
Key piece of the team

Futty Danso
From The Gambia
His broken foot means time off
Skinny but will fight

Bright Dike
Best name in Portland
Hulking beast can score some goals
How is his fitness?

Jake Gleeson

Ladies love cool Jake
Earned his back-up promotion
Lots of potential

David Horst
Can grow a great 'stache
Solid play from center back
Now has a bad hip

Andrew Jean-Baptiste
What a specimen
Young and raw, but looks the part
Will he see the field?

Jack Jewsbury
He is Captain Jack
Beloved by all his teammates
Rock in the midfield

Eddie Johnson

Grew up at ManU
Now he’s the English Twellman
Without all the goals

Ryan Kawulok
He went to UP
Right back just got signed last week
Depth for the future

James Marcelin
Lock down games with James
Tough as nails as holding mid
Call him the Closer

Hanyer Mosquera

Will start right away
Follows Jorge and Chara
Can he find success?

Darlington Nagbe
Best skills on the team?
MLS Goal of the Year
What’s his position?

Lovel Palmer
Likes to have a go
Despite playing at the back
Lone right back option?

Troy Perkins
Starting goalkeeper
One of the best in the league
Crucial part of team

Jorge Perlaza
A speedy striker
Who only scores goals at home
Consistent starter?

Steve Purdy
Once was the future
Plays more for country than club
Provides depth, I guess

Charles Renken
Cost nothing for him
First MLS Zambian
Just 18 years old

Brent Richards
First home grown Timber
Best player in PDL
Will play sparingly

Sebastian Rincon
Not signed to a deal
Look for club to lock him down
Born in ’94!

Franck Songo’o
Developed abroad
Could have a breakout season
Will he start Day One?

Chris Taylor
Reserves and friendlies
Are where you will see Taylor
Actual left back

Jose Adolfo Valencia

Was a big signing
Got hurt before he showed up
Might see him next year

Rodney Wallace
Timbers fan scapegoat
But scored against Tim Howard
Has fashion sense too

Sal Zizzo
Zig-Zag Sal Zizzo
Dribbles through with his head down
But injury prone

Feel free to post a haiku of your own by logging in using a Facebook account, or submit one at

Boyd heads Timbers toward season on high note

The Scottish striker scores in just seven minutes in final preseason game
March 4, 2012 / By Mike Donovan,

At the press conference to introduce Kris Boyd to Portland, Boyd said he had come to Portland to score goals. And seven minutes into is first game at Jeld-Wen Field, he delivered on his promise.

Boyd’s early goal held up as the Portland Timbers defeated AIK of Sweden, 1-0, in the Timbers preseason finale Sunday. The win gave the Timbers five points for the three-match tournament and tie them with the San Jose Earthquakes, who defeated Chivas USA, 5-0 earlier in the day.

“They brought me here to score goals, and I’m happy I was able to get one in today,” Boyd said. “Hopefully, I’ll get a lot more.”

After two draws in the tournament, the Timbers came out determined to get a win in front of the home fans. Boyd’s dream start was the result of a nice ball by Rodney Wallace to switch fields and a great cross by Jorge Perlaza from the right side.

Boyd headed in the Colombian’s cross and sent Jeld-Wen into a frenzy.

Portland Coach John Spencer went with a regular season approach for the game, starting his best 11 available and only listing seven substitutes despite being allowed four more. And, the coach was rewarded as his offense constantly pressured AIK’s backline and goalkeeper Ivan Turina.

Outside midfielders Kalif Alhassan and Wallace both had nice games and continuously provided passes to cutters. Alhassan wrapped up an assertive week as he battles for a starting position.

Wallace, who played for his native Costa Rica on Wednesday in Wales, was constantly attacking the backline of the visitors from Stockholm, and showed he might merit some playing time on the wing.

In addition to getting the assist on the goal, Perlaza used his quickness throughout the match to create openings for himself and his teammates.

Other starters who showed well were Brunner, who looked confident and comfortable as usual as the Timbers defensive anchor, and Perkins, who went through the preseason with conceding just two goals, one of which was an own goal.

My men of the match were Wallace, Perlaza, and Boyd for the reasons listed above. With his match today, Perlaza certainly seems like the favorite to be Boyd’s strike partner on March 12.

The Timbers will kick off the MLS regular season on March 12 at Jeld-Wen Field against the Philadelphia Union. Check out and for full coverage on the week leading up to the match.

Timbers rally for another draw, 1-1

Kawulok nets first goal as Portland hangs with Chivas USA
March 1, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning,

Portland coach John Spencer got a good look at most of the players either looking for a roster spot or consistent playing time Thursday night, and they were able to rally in the second half for a 1-1 draw with Chivas USA before 15,195 fans at Jeld-Wen Field.

Ryan Kawulok scored in the 78th minute to match a first-half score by Chivas and the Timbers finished with their second draw of the preseason tournament, three days after a 1-1 tie with San Jose.

Spencer suited up a line-up full of players from last season's U23 squad as well as unsigned players led by forward Sebastian Rincon. The unit applied consistent pressure, but few serious scoring opportunities until Kawulok found the net off a corner by Kalif Alhassan, who entered as a second-half sub.

"He did well with the goal," Spencer said of Kawulok.  "That's why we signed him. He's ready to play in the first team right now." 

Portland plays its final preseason game Sunday against Sweden's AIK.


Timbers start fast, hold on for 1-1 draw

San Jose recovers and dominates much of preseason match
Feb. 27, 2012 / By Cliff Pfenning

Two weeks before the start of the Major League Soccer season, the Portland Timbers jumped out to an inspiring start with a goal just 15 minutes into their preaseason match with San Jose Monday night at Jeld-Wen Field.

Kalif Alhassan scored with a spectacular curving shot for a 1-0 lead, but the Earthquakes recovered and controlled most the remaining 75 minutes, settling for a 1-all draw in the first round of the four-team tournament.

Hanyer Mosquera, trying to control a cross, knocked the ball in for an own goal, tying the score in the 60th minute.

The tournament continues for the Timbers Thursday night with a match against Chivas USA and concludes Sunday against AIK.


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